CHRISTOPHER UCHEFUNA OKEKE GOES HOME
Christopher Uchefuna Okeke was born April 30, 1933, in Nimo, Njikoka Local Government Area of Anambra State. He attended St. Peter Clever’s Primary School, Kafanchan, Metropolitan College, Onitsha and Bishop Shanahan College, Orlu between 1940 and 1953 during which time he had begun to demonstrate an avid interest in drawing and painting. Before his admission to study fine art at the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology, now Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Okeke had already exhibited during the Field Society meeting at the Jos Museum with Bernard Fagg as curator.
Together with Yusuf Grillo, Bruce Onobrakpeya, Demas Nwoko and others, he inaugurated the Zaria Art Society, later the Society of Nigerian Artists, as well as opened a cultural centre in Kafanchan, which later became the Asele Institute, Nimo in 1958.
Okeke was appointed lecturer and acting head of the Fine Arts Department of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka during which time he reviewed the entire course programme and introduced new courses and research into Igbo Uli art tradition. He is also credited with the design of the first course programme of the Department of Fine and Applied Arts, Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu and the institution of post graduate courses in the Department of Fine Arts, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
He died on January 5, 2016. SNA was heavily involved in the funeral activities which commenced on February 20, 2016 with a Service of Songs at the Catholic Church of Divine Mercy, Lekki, Lagos, followed by a vigil mass and wake keeping on March 3, 2016. He was interred on March 4, 2016 at the Asele Institute premises amongst family, friends and colleagues from the Society of Nigerian Artists.
ART 15 LONDON
ANCIENT RIVERS: NEW TRIBUTARIES
At ART15 the Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA) offered an exhibition titled RIVERS: NEW TRIBUTARIES. Curated by Oliver Enwonwu, the exhibition portrayed the link between western techniques and modes of representation and the geometric forms of traditional African art which gave birth to modern art.
The exhibition saw works from leading and exciting Nigerian artists like Duke Asidere, Joseph Eze, Kelani Abass, Jelili Atiku, Odun Omolade, Alex Nwokolo and Diseye Tantua working across the diverse media of painting, sculpture and performance. In essence, the artists drew innovatively from ancient rivers, created new artistic forms – hybrids of photography, painting mixed media and sculpture.
Selected from over 6,000 members of the SNA spread across Nigeria, the artists were largely representative of the creative renaissance engulfing the country’s contemporary art space.
Though the artists worked across diverse media, they were united in their personal and political responses to Nigeria’s urban realities and traditional heritage. They described the societal changes ignited by the rapid development of West Africa, notably Nigeria.
SNA @ 50
In 2014, the Society of Nigerian Artists kicked off its 50th Anniversary celebration with the National Abuja Children Art Workshop, an educational-based initiative sponsored by Mobil Nigeria Limited. The workshop aimed to lay a strong foundation for the development of contemporary Nigerian art by encouraging children in over twenty primary and junior secondary schools to develop their creativity while sharing their experiences and ideas on issues affecting their environment.
In continuation of events to marks its 50th Anniversary, the Society of Nigerian Artists held the 3rd International Convention on Art and Development (CONADEV) in 2014. The Convention was themed The Role of Art in National Transformation and featured a 2-day conference at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs. The convention aimed at evaluating Nigeria’s 100 years of existence through the performance of the visual arts sector, the engine of technological growth of any nation. It also aimed at exploring the role of the visual arts in causing desirable changes in society while enabling practitioners to compare favorably with their colleagues in other sectors.
As part of the SNA at 50 celebrations, an award and fundraising dinner held at the Shell Hall, MUSON Centre. The dinner featured a cultural performance, an auction, as well as the award of prizes and fellowships to outstanding artists, individuals and corporates, who have made significant contributions towards the development of art in Nigeria.
In addition, The Next Fifty Years: Contemporary Nigerian Art, an exhibition of painting, sculptures and installations was held at Omenka Gallery. The exhibition featured the works of some of the most exciting contemporary Nigerian artists exploring new themes and visual vocabularies in their work. It is the first in a series of shows to provoke contemporary discourse and encourage the development of new techniques around these traditional media, which feature albeit prominently on the Lagos contemporary art scene. According to Oliver Enwonwu, President of SNA:
In all, the works presented are strongly individual and a testament to each artist’s quest in exploring new visual possibilities. Collectively, they form a part of a significant trajectory in our recent artistic history – a glimpse into the next fifty years of contemporary art in Nigeria.